A trip to Hateruma Island
Hateruma is the furthest south of all the Yaeyama Islands. In fact, it’s the most southern inhabited island in the whole of Japan, and a monument to this fact stands on the island’s coast. Last week I spent two days there, travelling by boat from Ishigaki which takes one hour. It was the second time I’ve visited this quiet island which has a population of around 600.
The oval shaped island is unremarkable for any great sightseeing attractions but does possess one of the most beautiful beaches in the Ryukyus on its west coast. It also has a night sky which was so clear on my visit that it was full of stars. An observatory is on the south coast and from February to June the Southern Cross is visible. The island also produces its own brand of awamori liquor which is highly prized by the locals and is called Awanami. But perhaps the best thing about Hateruma is just that it’s still so unspoiled. It’s a place where life moves very slowly and it has managed to maintain its relaxed atmosphere.
An album of traditional Hateruma songs was released last year by Aby Records. The 18 tracks on the CD were originally field recordings made many years ago on the island. They were remastered for release on CD by Japanese producer Makoto Kubota in 2009 as part of his series of recordings from the southern Ryukyus. Patiloma: Traditional Songs from Hateruma Island Vol.1 features Fujie Atofusoko and Mitsuko Nosoko singing mostly unaccompanied but also with sanshin on a few tracks.